Mar 24, 15
When I picked up Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell I expected another typical teen romance complete with Facebook, text talk and frustrating gender stereotypes but found a story of mix tapes, eyeliner and love!
This story is so refreshingly different from anything I’ve read this year I can’t seem to stop talking about it. It all starts when she sits next to him on the bus, Eleanor is the new girl at school. She dresses strangely and doesn’t fit into any high school standard of cool and her classmates make that very clear. Park, a punk rock loving Asian American is just trying to keep his head down and fit in. Their love doesn’t involve life threatening situations, love triangles or brutal sacrifice, they are not ethereally beautiful or feel a supernatural bond, their love is simply raw, awkward and honest. This is the kind of love that teens should read about. Love with mistakes, misunderstandings and awkward moments. As a teen I grew up with completely unrealistic expectations about love and relationships, which I totally attribute to reading too much unrealistic teen romance!
Rowell writes from both Eleanor and Park’s points of view so the reader is able to see how each of the characters react to the same situation. One of my favorite scenes is when, after having her clothes dumped in the toilet by the school bully, Eleanor has to wear her too-tight tracksuit in the halls and bumps into Park. The wonderful juxtaposition of their interpretations is one of the tantalizing qualities of this book.
Set in 1986 this story gives young readers a glimpse of what not-so-young readers find nostalgic while also touching on some very serious issues. Eleanor navigates the dangers of domestic violence as well as living with the threat of being driven out of her home. Rowell doesn't shy away from describing the unpleasantries of living in dirty ripped clothes or bathing with a drape as a bathroom door. Park's wealthy middle class upbringing highlights the differences of class in suburban America while romanticizing neither. I would recommend this book to Sarah Dessen, John Green or Laurie Halse Anderson fans however for those who are looking for romance in whatever genre I would tempt them to try this truly excellent read!